Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kujira Japanese Cuisine

Promising Japanese fusion cuisine and, according to its website, where "Eastern flavours meet Western modern fusion", Kujira on 12 Cumberland Street opened its doors a little bit over two months ago in upscale Yorkville. Chef Kevin Hyunki, formerly of Nomé Izakaya, helms the kitchen in the new 56-seat restaurant. Kujira's detailed menu starts with soups and salads, followed by sushi and sashimi, and ends with cold and hot tapas from the sushi bar and kitchen, respectively. All in all, Hyunki's plates are pretty, innovative and unique. Keep in mind that Kujira (Twitter: @JapKujira, Facebook: Kujira Japanese Cuisineis not an "izakaya" (i.e. a drinking establishment that serves small cheap plates of food to accompany drinks) but an eatery serving Japanese tapas, or shareable plates, that can be enjoyed with a group of friends. Needless to say, Sapporo and sake are always welcomed.

Tucked in a few steps below street level, floor-to-ceiling glass panels open the restaurant to its modest patio out front. Kujira is no doubt an excellent spot for people watching in the summer :)

The natural woods - from the floors, wall paneling, to the custom tables and chairs - give a warm and cozy feel to the restaurant.

Don't you love the detailing on this teapot?

A look at what I had at Kujira:



KUJIRA SIGNATURE SUSHI (medium, 15 pc, $28)

Spicy shrimp, spicy salmon, sesame tuna, jalapeno hamachi, bonito flake flavoured albcaore tuna, arugula pesto tuna, apple salmon, garlic black olive salmon.

Deep fried lobster tail, cucumber, avocado, topped with crawfish salad and roasted red pepper sauce

Brined horse mackerel, torched to order

Flash fried whole tiger shrimp, lightly coated in chili mayo

Fresh albacore pate with finely chopped chive and a crisp black sesame wonton skin

Thick cut sweet soy sauce braised short ribs, served with shishito peppers and jujube

Every plate was delicately and beautifully prepared at Kujira. Having said that, I did enjoy some dishes more than others.

The evening started off with a beet salad which I was quite excited about because I love beets. Although the crunch from the beets was superb, the overly tart and tangy miso/mustard/vinegar dressing completely took over - it was all I could taste. Fortunately, a palette cleanser immediately followed to cut the acidity; a delicious and flavourful miso soup with shrimp and soft cubes of tofu. Next was Kujira's signature sushi set. Here, each piece of sushi was individually garnished with unique toppings: apple, garlic black olive, arugula pesto, etc. My favourite was the jalapeno hamachi. The Lobster Soul packed an impeccable combination of flavour and texture, and the Torched Mackerel Sashimi was also a hit. I cannot emphasize enough that the deep fried tiger shrimp tossed in chili mayo was excellen as well. The plump shrimps, thoroughly coated with creamy chili mayonnaise, had perfectly balanced sweet and spicy notes. It's a must-order item. On the other hand, the albacore tuna pate was not so great. I didn't like the pate's texture - it had a pasty consistency and lacked the creamy "cohesiveness" or "body" I look for in a pate. And because the tuna didn't pack a lot of flavour, the heavily seasoned wonton skin completely masked the tuna when eaten together. Perhaps a seasoned piece nori would work better? My dinner ended in a high note with the braised beef short rib - Kujira knocked it out of the park with this one. With spot-on seasoning and marinade, the delicate fall-off-the-bone tender short ribs was moist and tasty.. it was my favourite dish of the night.

*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*

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